I recently sat down for a conversation with Gilad de Vries, Outbrain’s VP of Brands and Agencies. We chatted about why content marketing has become so important, which brands have mastered the practice and whether or not video should be added to your content marketing strategy. To listen to the conversation, click on the audio player below. To read a transcript of the conversation, click on the tab beneath the audio player.[audio:http://blog.outbrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Gilad-Podcast-final-compressed-volume-4.mp3|titles=Gilad de Vries Podcast ]
You recently published a byline on Forbes.com that compared content marketing to search in the early 2000s and social media five years ago. Can you explain what you meant?
I think the advertising landscape in digital is kind of evolving in waves. The first big wave we’ve seen is during the year 2000 when search was introduced and we saw a spur of a lot of technology platforms as well as agencies that kind of stepped up to the plate in terms of helping brands and direct marketers get their message across using search. We saw the same kind of thing happen five years later with social. If you look at the Terry Kawaja social marketing landscape slide you’ll see that there are now over 100 different start-ups that are just there to help brands manage and publish on social media platforms. Obviously there are a lot of agencies that are starting to pick up around that same time to help facilitate that channel. Now we see the same thing with content marketing. A lot of agencies are starting up and a lot of technologies that are essentially there to help marketers reach consumers through or with their content.
You were pretty critical of display advertising in the piece. What’s your beef with display?
I don’t have a beef with display. I think that was received in the wrong way. I think display is a valid medium and I think it’s great. I just don’t think it’s necessarily wonderful for every single marketer. For brand marketers that are looking for awareness and affinity, the ones that are trying to create that emotional connection that we as consumers get with a brand, it’s very hard to replicate in display. I mean seriously: When is the last time that you remembered a display ad that you’ve seen? But if we talk about TV commercials you remember them — maybe a long time afterwards because they resonated with you if they were done well. So I just think executing a display campaign that creates that emotional connectivity is either extremely rare, very hard or very, very expensive. That’s the only beef I have with it. For the bottom of the funnel or for retargeting purposes it’s a very valid medium.
You also recently published a byline on Mashable detailing seven keys to successful content marketing. What advice would you give brands looking to build a content marketing strategy?
I think the first thing to remember is that content marketing is a pull strategy rather than a push advertising medium. You have to think very carefully about what your strategy is and who your client is. When you understand who your client is you really need to think about how do I engage that client with interesting, compelling and entertaining content. It’s not going to be about you, it’s going to be about them and what’s interesting and important for them and can you solve their problems or not. If you keep that as a lighthouse of sticking to things that they’re interested in and not what you’re interested in them knowing, I think you’re going to be in a good spot. The types of content you’re going to create depend on the kind of consumer you’re going to reach out to. You need to keep that in mind. There are a lot of different types of content that you should consider: blog posts, articles, earned media, owned content, video, etc. But I think one of the things that are a lot of times overlooked is the importance of design in that process. I wouldn’t necessarily work with a creative agency but with a specialist content marketing agency that will make sure that the content looks great, because that is extremely important in order for you to actually get engagement. And the last thing that I would say is that you need to always iterate, iterate, iterate. Be nimble in your content marketing strategy. Don’t try to shoot for 700 articles before you publish anything. You can start with one and get to two, get from there to three, and always get all the feedback that you can. It’s a digital medium. There’s a lot of KPIs you can tap into. Listen to what your consumers are telling you based on their behavior and engagement with the content and change and switch up the next piece of content to create based on that interest.
Who are some of the brands that are doing content marketing very well?
I think that we have hundreds of great, great examples of what brands are doing in the digital media space. Look at P&G: They have hundreds of different sites tailored for different target audiences. They have PetSide for pet lovers, Life Goes Strong for baby-boomers, Man of the House for dads, Home Made Simple for the mom that wants to know what to do for dinner. So great examples of what they do with content there. Colgate has 700 different articles and slideshows and videos just on oral care. Stuff like “How to teach my kids how to better wash their mouth.” When GE wanted to take about innovation they created an amazing site called Ecomagination. I urge you to go and see it. Awesome design and lots of great content about ecology and innovation and what’s between them. Kraft Recipes is 30,000 pieces of content, a lot of it was actually written by the community and it’s not necessarily all talking about foods that Kraft is manufacturing. General Mills’ Table Spoon is a great example. And I think that the ultimate example for me is how Red Bull created a site called RedBullUsa.com. If you go there it’s hard to even see they’re a CPG company selling beverages because it looks like the ESPN of adventure sports. Great examples to look into and learn from.
How does video factor into the type of content marketers should create? Is it for everybody? Is it for select few? What do you think?
Video is just another medium of content marketing. It’s one of the things you should probably consider. It’s not right for everyone, but what is important is video can be very costly. It should cost about $3500 for every minute of video you’re creating, on average. So if you’re investing so much time and effort into video, just make sure you have a plan of how to market it. Unfortunately not every video is Old Spice. Not everything goes viral. Yours probably, statistically, will not become viral. So instead of creating a video for the sake of having a video strategy, again, focus on if video provides the added value that my consumers are looking for. When Lowes or Sears is creating a video on how to do stuff, that is very valuable for consumers because they want to learn how to build that table that they bought wood for. But when brands are creating videos that are more like ads and they’re trying to market them as content, that’s when it’s not necessarily hitting the mark.
A few years ago it seemed like everyone was striving toward a multichannel, holistic marketing approach. Is that true for content marketing? Or should marketers be focusing on specific channels as the focal point of their overall content marketing strategy?
I think there’s a time and place for every medium in the marketing mix model. I don’t think TV is dead. I don’t think magazines or newspapers are dead. I think there’s a time and place that you want to use these platforms for. I do think that if you’re creating a very good content marketing strategy there’s probably a lot of opportunity in leveraging offline and creating your own custom magazine, like Lego is doing, like John Deere is doing, like American Express with their travel and leisure magazine are doing. So definitely there’s a place for offline. In online, the way to think about content marketing maybe a little bit differently is to not silo it as yet another platform, like this is my social strategy, this is my search strategy, this is my content marketing strategy, but rather think about content marketing as the hub of the wheel. If you do a good job in that, usually what it means is you’ll be able to leverage all the other mediums, like search, like social and like display. If you make it the hub of the wheel, everything else will plug into it and you will have a very comprehensive and cohesive message to the market.
Music by Dan Zweben